Traditionally, development has been used to describe a country’s progress towards wealth, culture, opportunities and more. This is usually based on indicators like GDP or HDI (human development index), although other factors are important too. For example, a country’s level of education and healthcare can be an indicator of the overall quality of life within that nation.
As a term, it has been defined by many different professionals and researchers, with each having their own emphases on what makes a society more developed or less developed. Amartya Sen developed the capability approach, for example, which focuses on empowering people to achieve their full potential through giving them freedom of action. This became a major element of the UN’s Human Development Index, which is widely considered to be one of the most effective measures of a country’s level of development.
Another key aspect of development is understanding how much of it is dependent on nurture and how much is determined by nature. This is an ongoing debate in the field, with many behaviorists arguing that humans are at the whim of their inherited genes and their environment. Other theorists, however, see a more active role for humans in their developmental journey.
Development is an incredibly complex topic, and there is still a lot that we do not know about how it occurs. But the important thing to remember is that change for the better must be appropriate for the cultural context, and it must be sustainable and inclusive.